Bank checks out of Millicent

Graham Bowen Feb   TBW Newsgroup
WRONG MOVE: Customer Graham Bowen is upset by the decision of the Commonwealth Bank to close its Millicent branch on May 8. Picture: J.L. "FRED" SMITH

Graham Bowen Feb TBW Newsgroup
WRONG MOVE: Customer Graham Bowen is upset by the decision of the Commonwealth Bank to close its Millicent branch on May 8. Picture: J.L. “FRED” SMITH

MILLICENT customers and community leaders are saddened the local Commonwealth Bank branch will soon be closing its doors.

Millicent will be down to only two staffed banks as the Commonwealth Bank will shut its George Street branch on May 8.

The bank has traded on the purpose-built site for the past 58 years and currently has four staff.

However, falling patronage due to online banking has sounded its death knell.

Customer Graham Bowen regards the closure as a terrible decision.

“They say we can bank at the post office but it is not as private,” Mr Bowen said.

“I feel sorry for the bank staff at Millicent as they have been lovely over the years.

“It will be hard on the elderly customers.

“I wonder if we will still have a Commonwealth Bank ATM?”

His remarks were endorsed by fellow customer Michael Gurney.

“It is a bad decision for the community and definitely a sad day for Millicent,” Mr Gurney said.

“A lot of people use the Commonwealth Bank and I have been a customer for five years after the closure of Westpac.”

Millicent resident Tony Bitter managed the branch from 1992 to 97 when there were 10 full-time and part-time staff.

“It is very sad for the town,” Mr Bitter said.

“It is the end of an era.

“There has been a pattern of bank closures over many years.”

“I look back on my career in the bank and the only branch where I once worked which is still open is at Salisbury,” Mr Bitter said.

Millicent Business Community Association chairman Lee Morgan said changes in the banking industry have been occurring over a long period of time.

“I know the Millicent branch has been educating customers on the merits of electronic banking,” Mr Morgan said.

“However, day to day banking is not only one part of fiscal and the banking service.

“Given there is agricultural, horticultural, fisheries tourism and other business sectors making decisions on business growth in the area, the reduction of such services is a myopic one and is consequently very disappointing.”

Wattle Range mayor Des Noll expressed concern for employees, saying staff “served this bank with continued commitment and professionalism”.

“These local people have been the face of this financial institution,” he said.

“Millicent and the Wattle Range Council area has a very strong financial-economic base, so I would suggest it may create an opportunity for other financial banking businesses to engage within our community.”

Millicent customers were told of the impending closure on Friday and it came in the same week as the Commonwealth Bank’s share price exceeded $90 for the first time and it reported a half-year profit of $4.48b.

Earlier in the week, a Millicent electrical contracting firm announced it would be closing its doors at the end of the month.

Beyond May, the only banks remaining in Millicent will be the ANZ and Bank SA, which will be the lowest number since the 1880s.

The last Millicent bank branch to close was Westpac in 1999.

There were six banks operating in Millicent in the 1970s and other towns like Penola, Robe and Lucindale have also suffered a decline in face-to-face banking in recent years.

In a statement, Commonwealth Bank state manager Sally Gubbin said the closure at Millicent followed a review, which found branch transactions had dramatically declined in recent years.

“We regularly review our branch locations across Australia to help us make informed decisions on where to open new branches, where to renovate or upgrade existing branches and in some instances where to close branches that are not being visited as much as they once were,” Ms Gubbin said.

“Following a recent review, we made the difficult decision to close our Millicent branch on May 8.

“Transactions at this branch have dropped 42pc over the past five years, with customers increasingly choosing other banking channels such as our mobile, online and phone banking services.

“We understand some customers may be concerned, so want to assure them that during the three-month transition period, our people are on hand to help familiarise them with all the banking options available.”

The statement said Commonwealth Bank customers can use the Millicent Post Office to withdraw and deposit funds and pay bills during normal business hours.